Marcus Green Jersey

The Falcons have recently fallen in love with the idea of drafting Louisiana collegiate wide receivers in the sixth round, nabbing both Russell Gage and Marcus Green there in the last two drafts. The two both have definite special teams value, but it’s worth asking whether Green might be able to carve out a significant role on offense down the line.

Gage, of course, was drafted primarily for his special teams prowess, not his skill as a receiver. His entire collegiate production consisted of 28 receptions for 232 yards and a touchdown, which is part of why his flashes of potential as a receiver in 2018 were so intriguing. There’s still upside there, but if we’re talking about which one of the team’s last two sixth round picks at receiver is likeliest to make a big impact, it’s Green by a landslide.

Green’s production, meanwhile, was stellar. He wasn’t playing at LSU as Gage was, but he put up 202 receptions for 2,698 yards and 23 touchdowns at Louisiana-Monroe, using his blazing wheels and quality hands to make an outsized impact. Notably, he did most of his damage as the team’s slot receiver.

Why is this relevant, especially given that Green has been linked to both receiver and running back here in the early going, not to mention as the team’s probable kick returner? Because the team doesn’t actually have a long-term slot option at this point, what with Mohamed Sanu entering the final year of his deal in 2020, Justin Hardy on a one-year deal and, and Gage not (to my knowledge) being considered for that role. Green’s productivity and comfort level there suggests that he can be impactful at least in relief of Sanu, not to mention giving the team a very different look than they have with the 6’2”, physical playmaker there today.

Green’s closest analogue for Falcons fans is probably Taylor Gabriel, though it’s not a perfect comparison and the two would be working in different offenses with Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian turning things over to Dirk Koetter. The two are similar in height and athletic profiles, with Green’s clocking in some 25 pounds heavier, and Green’s speed and versatility (the team suggested he’d be an RB before Thomas Dimitroff walked it back) could see him getting involved out of the backfield as well, as the team sometimes (though not often enough) did with Gabriel.

I don’t want to overstate this possibility, because the rate of late round receivers panning out isn’t exactly stellar, but it’s an intriguing thought. Green may never become the team’s #3 receiver, but his blend of speed, quality hands, and experience do suggest he could at least fill in capably in the slot in the years to come.

Jordan Miller Jersey

The Falcons selected two cornerbacks in this year’s NFL Draft – Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller – yet ESPN still believes the position is Atlanta’s biggest remaining hole.

In a recent piece detailing the top remaining need for each NFL team, ESPN’s Andrew Potter provided his thoughts for the NFC South and why cornerback is Atlanta’s most glaring need at this point.

“The Falcons came into the offseason with two major goals: plug glaring holes in the defensive front seven and rebuild their offensive line,” Potter writes. “Veteran free agent Tyeler Davison and the returning Adrian Clayborn help immensely with the first of those, whereas the team spent massive amounts of draft capital on the second. That leaves cornerback as the most obvious area of uncertainty: Isaiah Oliver made only two starts in his rookie season but is now first in line to start opposite Desmond Trufant. The vital nickelback spot is a contest between a recently converted safety (Damontae Kazee), a career backup with one start in three years (Blidi Wreh-Wilson), and two developmental late-round rookies in Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller. Even if one of those players develops quickly into a worthy starter, depth in the secondary remains a clear issue. Atlanta only needs to look back a single season to see just how important that can be.”

Atlanta took steps to add to their depth in the secondary in the draft, but the Falcons are relying on a lot of youth at the position. Still, Kazee is an example of how things can break the right way with young players, but there is still risk involved.

The Falcons made three trades in this year’s NFL Draft, each one to move up in the draft order. But how do those three trades stack up compared to all of the other trades made during draft weekend? CBS Sports’ R.J. White ranked all 40 of the trades made in the draft, and the Falcons fared pretty well overall. In White’s opinion, Atlanta had the 32nd-, 26th- and ninth-best trades in the draft.

The lowest rated trade was the Falcons’ decision to move up in the fourth round to grab Kendall Sheffield, the 26th-rated trade was Atlanta move to grab John Cominsky and the team’s best trade was the move back into the first round to draft Kaleb McGary.

“While Kaleb McGary wasn’t as big of a steal as the three players we just mentioned, the Falcons got him for a steal rather than overpaying in the deal, and that’s before you factor in landing the fifth-year option,” White writes. “It would have been better if an impact defensive lineman had been there to grab, but the Falcons deserve credit for the value of this trade anyway.”

Qadree Ollison Jersey

Qadree Ollison spent the NFL Draft weekend with his family and friends at his home in Niagara Falls. The former Canisius High and University of Pittsburgh football standout knew he would learn his next destination, but he didn’t know when or where.

Saturday afternoon, Ollison, a running back, was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, with the 152nd pick.

“Being from Western New York and being a small-city kid, from Niagara Falls and going to the NFL, it means everything,” Ollison told the News. “It’s an honor to be a part of the NFL fraternity and I’m excited to get to work.”

Ollison is the only player from Western New York to be selected in the seven-round NFL Draft this year. Ollison is also the only player from Pitt to be drafted this year.

“It was amazing,” Ollison said of receiving the call that he was drafted from the Falcons. “Just pure emotion and exhilaration. It was surreal at that moment.”

John Cominsky Jersey

John Cominsky walked into the Little Caesars pizza shop for what had become a semi-weekly tradition. He’d hand the cashier five bucks and some change. The cashier would hand him a large Hot-N-Ready with pepperoni and cheese. If he picked up a couple extra hours working at the library that week, he might splurge on the supreme.

Cominsky would take that pizza back to his place, plop it down, lift the lid, grab a slice and get to work. The University of Charleston defensive end’s mission was to make that entire pizza disappear before he went to bed that night.

Gluttony never was the goal. Every calorie counted. That was evident the second he stepped on the scale at the NFL draft combine, one of a handful of Division II football players to earn an invitation. He tipped those scales at 286 pounds.

That’s pretty impressive for any Division II NFL prospect. Even more impressive for a guy who walked onto UC’s campus as a 215-pound option quarterback.

For Cominsky, every slice of pizza, peanut butter sandwich or trip to Taco Bell, every meal and every bite he took past the point of being full was part of the plan that led to this point. Sometime this weekend, Cominsky expects to hear his name announced in the NFL draft. If it is, he’ll be the first player in UC/Morris Harvey football history to earn that honor in 76 years.

“For this NFL stuff to roll around,” he said, “it’s extremely rewarding to know that, when I had my head down for all those years and long days and for those rewards to come around … rewarding is the first word to come to me, but it’s deeper than that. It’s a deeper reward.”

Kendall Sheffield Jersey

The Falcons have swapped up from #117 and threw in pick #186 for pick #111 and wound up with Ohio State CB Kendall Sheffield.

The team was strongly tied to cornerbacks throughout the pre-draft process, and they’ve made a CB their third selection in this class, indicating that they like Sheffield’s potential over the long haul even if there may not be room for to start in 2019. Sheffield needs coaching, per most scouting reports, and isn’t necessarily a ballhawk. However, he’s extremely fast and combines the ability to smother receivers with the ability to get into the air and hang with tall receivers, despite his modest height.

If the Falcons can get him on the field this year—and they will—he’ll be intriguing right away thanks to that athletic profile. There may be room for him outside next season, however, if the Falcons shuffle their cornerback group or move on from Desmond Trufant. At the very least, he’s intriguing depth for a team that could always use more athletic cornerbacks.

That suggests, though, that he’s destined for big things with Atlanta. We’ll see how the team rolls him out in 2019 and what moves they make to make room for him in 2020, whether a reshuffling or ushering in the Isaiah Oliver/Sheffield era. Exciting times.

Give him a warm welcome!

Kaleb McGary Jersey

McGary started every game at right tackle for the Huskies in 2016, 2017 and 2018, playing virtually every snap over that period.

He is the first UW offensive lineman to be drafted since Senio Kelemete went in the fifth round (to Arizona) in 2012.

The heart arrhythmia is not all McGary has overcome. In January 2018, a fire damaged about half of the McGary family’s house in Fife.

The family had already relocated once, in 2012, after losing their family farm in southwest Washington. Kaleb’s dad, Justin, during the economic recession, saw his shifts as a union longshoreman dwindle, and soon after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The family’s resolve would be tested again when Kaleb’s heart issues surfaced during his junior year at Fife High. It took several years and several minor procedures, but Kaleb reported in December 2018 that he hasn’t had any recent issues.

“It’s just tick, tick, ticking away. No complaints, man,” he said in December.

He continues to have perspective through all of these experiences.

“I’ve been really very fortunate,” he said. “The fire: Yeah, a lot of really important stuff went up in the fire, but nothing that lived or breathed did. You can always replace that other stuff. My heart: Yeah, it was a big pain, and certainly a big scare. But in the end, it turned out OK. It was a simple couple procedures, and I was right back at it. I would say, never losing sight of what’s important — very, very stubborn determination and persistence.

“And not being afraid. Not being afraid to give it what you got. I’ve only got one shot at this, so I need to give it what I have. So here I stand, man. Here I stand.”

Chris Lindstrom Jersey

It would be fair to suggest that the Falcons have surprised us in the first round of the draft for four years running. That started with Keanu Neal, who went a round earlier than he was projected to, and continued with Takkarist McKinley, who relatively few surmised would be a trade-up target for Atlanta. Calvin Ridley was obviously a surprise and so was tonight’s selection, Chris Lindstrom, who is a guard (a position the Falcons hardly ever prioritize in the draft) and was not linked to the Falcons by virtually anyone in the first round.

Given all that—and given how divisive the pick was destined to be—how are Falcons fans feeling early on about the selection?

As of the time of publication here, over 50% of Falcons fans gave the selection a B. To understand why, you have to get into what’s important to fans and what the Falcons promised they’d do this offseason.

Why don’t 29% of fans love the move? Easy: Lindstrom was a shocker with consensus top edge rushers and tackles available, and tackle seems like the bigger immediate need. It’s not a slam dunk that Lindstrom, good as he’s reputed to be, is an elite, ten-year guy at the position, given that he sometimes got pushed around by some of the top defensive tackles in this very class. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the Falcons did not exactly go budget with James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, and unless one of those players is getting consideration at tackle, the Falcons paid that money for a high-priced backup with apparently full knowledge that Lindstrom was on their radar. He was always going to be available at #14.

Overall, though, there’s more cautious optimism than I thought there would be. Let’s hope Lindstrom proves to be the best Falcons guard since…well, since a long time ago.